Skip to main content

Altered Books


About Altered Books

People have been altering books for many years, however in the last 10 years this became a more well known Art. It is fascinating to see what amazing works of art can be created out of an old book that is falling apart.

Have you ever wondered how an Altered Book is made ?

There are many ways to make an altered book, you can start out with an old book and alter it using your artist skills, you can start with a blank board book and paint it with gesso then decorate it or you can alter a large second hand dictionary or encyclopedia. Read on to find out everything you need to know

Photo Credit; Copyright Di McDonald 2012-2014


The International Society of Altered Book Artists defines an altered book as "any book, old or new that has been recycled by creative means into a work of art.

Altered books are unloved, discarded books that are turned into works of art.

They can be part scrapbook, part art journal, part canvas, part mad experiment.

Altered books are a creative means of exploring your world. You have complete freedom to create something unique while recycling.

The photo is of the front cover of an Altered Book created for our round robin by Carolyn Stephens copyright 2012. This is an excellent example of an Altered Book. As you can see , she has cut a niche in the book and used hinges to make a doorway. Inside the doorway you will find real magic, if you dare to open it.


1: A book which has been Altered (changed) into a piece of ART by painting, drawing, gluing stuff on, stamping,or beading over the print, collaging onto the pages or cutting a niche and putting items into it.

2: There are no rules in making an altered book so the pages can be cut, folded, glued together and you can cut niches into the book

3: The pages can be covered with fabric, polymer clay, you can make textile pieces and pockets and put hidden messages in your altered book

4: The main thing is to have fun and let your creative side come alive!

Make an Altered Book : Part 1 Getting Started.

Scroll to Continue

One of the easiest ways to make an Altered Book is to start with a children's Board Book. If you are just starting with Altered Books , this is how I recommend you start. I would also choose one that is quite small. That way to task ahead will not be too daunting for you.

You can usually get these books on sale, or at your local dollar store..

Using a board book saves hours of gluing pages together. These books have very thick pages, so they tend to hold together better in the long run as well.

What you do is use Gesso ( gesso is a white primer that you can buy at any art supplies shop) to paint over the shiny pages to start with. This gives the page some "tooth". This means that the paint has something to adhere to. Next you can use acrylic paint and other techniques to get the background of your page finished before adding ephemera and other items to give the page a focal point.

Some people say that you need to give the pages a light sanding first, before you gesso it, but I have never done that and never had a problem.

The picture shown is one of Pam's pages in our round robin. She used printed tissue paper and paint to make this wonderful page

Have You Thought about Making an Altered Book?


Altered Books are a popular way to creatively share words and images and artistic expressions .

Altered Books are a fun and enjoyable way to create new books and journal from old books. By removing pages and painting layouts, unique creations may be made from books, which currently lay on the shelves collecting dust.

Altered books are a popular trend among artists using drawing, painting, collage, as well as other skills like stitching and carving!

This pictures is of a beautiful felted wrap around cover that Pam made for her own Altered Book. It was just gorgeous.

My Experiences with Altered Book Round Robins - Art Work By Pam Grose, Photo credit Di McDonald 2012


I was introduced to Altered Books before they became a mainstream art. I was very fascinated with them and interested to know more about them.

I started a yahoo group and invited some friends of mine who were Fiber Art Dolls Designers.

They were keen to explore different mixed media art as a hobby, because their dolls were their main job.

We started doing Altered Book Round Robins, where we would choose a theme for our books, then each start our own book. Every month or so we would send our own book to the next person on the list to do their thing in our books. Usually we would do a couple of double page spreads in each Altered book, then send it to the next person.

At the same time we would receive a book from another artist and would have to tune our creativity into their chosen theme and work in their books.

This was a sometimes daunting task and it was also so exciting to see what others were doing and learn new techniques.

Finally the time came to get our own Altered books back. What an exciting time it was. Once in a while we would be a bit disappointed about work done in our book,  but most of the time we were thrilled and so grateful for the beautiful art work that we got to keep for the rest of our lives.

Usually the people in the group would be living all around the world, some in New Zealand, some in USA, some in Australia. As well as working on the books we would converse via the internet and really get to know each other well. We would discuss our experiences in the art world and help each other out and encourage and support each other.

The whole experience became one that we all cherished and enjoyed. I organized a number of these groups and invited artists who I thought would be interesting , and would be able to be committed to the projects. I would encourage everyone to give this type of art a go, its so much fun

Which Book Is Your Favorite? - Altered Book Arts


I have found that if you decide on a theme for your Altered Book, it really helps to give you direction and focus.

Here is a list of themes you could choose from for your Altered Book

Countries ( choose any country)




My wishes

Change my life

Winter, Autumn, Spring, Summer

Beach Cottage


Lessons learned

Memories from childhood

First love

Happiest day





My Gifts

My art



Secret Garden








Cup cakes


The Tarot

Law of attraction

What do I want

Create a new life



Altered Book Techniques

Here are some wonderful places to learn techniques for making Altered Books. Enjoy!


How to make an Altered Book.

Here are some great places to find out heaps of information about how to make an Altered Book


More Altered Book Ideas

Altered book Cover using Kitchen Caulk

Some ideas about making Altered Books

My Altered Book Begins by Gary Reef

This is a bit slow to start with, but is worth the wait:-)

How to Create a Niche in an Altered Book

Juliana Coles Altered Book

Taking A Look at An Altered Book

Making an Altered Book Page The easy way!

What can you tell me about Altered Books?

Echo Phoenix on May 19, 2013:

Stopping back by to let you know what a great time I have been having with this project since I first became inspired by your lens about 6 months ago and that it actually led to an even more rewarding project for me. Thanks again for this Amazing lens, Squidtastic!

anonymous on May 04, 2013:

Altered books are not a new idea. I first saw an altered book in 1938 and friend of my mother's made them. She folded the pages of a catalogue to make a door stop, her husband made metal handles for them, the handles were decorated with coloured wool and ribbons

anonymous on May 01, 2013:

Im doing this in art at school thanks this helps me!

knitstricken on February 20, 2013:

As one who struggles with hoarding syndrome, I confess that the altered book movement energizes me. It's hard to throw away a ten year old computer book, but once altered, I am happy to pass it along. Go figure. Thank you for this well-endowed lens! Lots of really helpful and creative fodder for thought here!

anonymous on January 31, 2013:

hard and i really can't do this.. stop giving teachers ideas...

anonymous on January 31, 2013:

this project is dumb. now i have to do this in school.. uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

anonymous on October 25, 2012:

I love your blog! I"ve been assigned to do an Altered Book for my drawing class and this blog is perfect to help me get started. Thanks!

Fiona from South Africa on October 01, 2012:

Looks like a great project - I may just try it out sometime

Echo Phoenix on September 13, 2012:

Awesome lens on Altered Books! I read part of your lens a month or so ago and finally made it back here tonight... ready to start my first one:) Thanks for the inspiration and ideas!

anonymous on August 17, 2012:

Thank you so very much for this wonderful blog. You have done a great job of introducing us to altered books. I will be making one (some) soon.

anonymous on May 14, 2012:

I'm just beginning my first one... wanting to use it as a journal of some sort I think, wondering if i may just use this one as a 'having a go' type of thing :)

Gayle Dowell from Kansas on March 30, 2012:

I love making altered books. These are beautiful. Blessed.

JoolsObsidian LM on March 27, 2012:

This is a really unusual idea, i have never heard of it before but may well give it a try! Great lens.

whitneywpanetta1 on January 15, 2012:

I love all of your resources! I am a big visual journaler, i recently started a blog,, about it. I would love to see it become more mainstream and love to see other people putting out information about it!

seedplanter on November 25, 2011:

I have friends on Etsy who create altered books and until I began selling art prints on Etsy, I had no idea such a craft even existed. It is amazing what can be done with a single book, and this lens has covered a great deal of that. You've inspired me! Thanks for a well-balanced lens and a topic that's fun and unique.

daphnedangerlov1 on November 15, 2011:

If I had all the time in the world, I'd spend it making altered books. I love creating my own books and notebooks. Super lens.

MelissaInTheSky on September 27, 2011:

Fabulous lens! Really interesting and helpful.

Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on September 08, 2011:

This is absolutely fascinating. I never knew this craft existed. So many old unloved books at Garage Sales -- reduce, reuse, repurpose. Love this!

Close2Art LM on August 30, 2011:

Love the books, such great artwork, love it...:)RWJR

kimbesa from USA on May 21, 2011:

Outstanding showcase and lens...thanks!

Mona from Iowa on May 12, 2011:

These are simpy stunning and look like a huge amount of fun.

fantasticallyfi on May 07, 2011:

Very nice and inspiring how you can shift the whole meaning of something by modifying it slightly.

Jhangora LM on April 25, 2011:

It is something new for me, but I really like the look!

shandigp on April 22, 2011:

I've made a few of these! Didn't know that's what it was called. Can't wait to check out some of these books!

Genesis Davies from Guatemala on April 14, 2011:

I'd never heard of this before, it looks like fun! Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of spare time these days . . . maybe when the kids are grown. :)

Teri Villars from Phoenix, Arizona on February 06, 2011:

Interesting subject...I had no idea!

JudyDunn on February 05, 2011:

Creating an altered book/sketchbook/journal. It is very freeing to just play on each page. Nothing is too big, and it doesn't have to be great or important. Fun lens

anonymous on November 16, 2010:

hey i like altered books. mine is cool at least. i don't like ones that ive seen on the internet though

Jan T Urquhart Baillie from Australia on September 11, 2010:

I teach people to make quilts, to design, and about design, but I love altered books.

anonymous on July 20, 2010:

ok I am actually making an altered book for an assignment for art does anyone know if i need the pages to relate to the same thing or if they can be completely random can you make them on the internet and what else should i know email me at

Eklectik1 on May 27, 2009:

Great idea! Interesting lens.

anonymous on May 22, 2009:

Love this lens! 5*s and I lensrolled it to my Make a Purse out of Old Books lens.

ctavias0ffering1 on April 04, 2009:

Very interesting lens. Not something I would do to any of my existing books but I might consider experimenting a bit with something picked up from a thrift shop. 5* and a sprinkling of Angel dust for your Altered Art.

anonymous on October 23, 2008:

hi di!Alana here from 'Budget Direct' (and then I moved back home to New Zealand) I'd LOVE to hear from you, I think about you often. Email me? alanaalana (at) gmail DOT com

Glenna Jones from Orlando, Florida on September 04, 2008:

I just heard about altered books this afternoon. What a unique way to put a discarded item to use - Very Green :0)

Annette Geiger on August 10, 2008:

I love this lens! I have been "itching" for some new projects as I face the imminent departure of my one and only to college next week. I am thinking of doing this combined with photography...Now I just need an old board book! 5* and a new favorite for referring back to!

Tarra99 on May 23, 2008:

cool lens! very informative!

beachbum_gabby on May 08, 2008:

very cool and creative. Rewarding 5*!

Ruth Coffee from Zionsville, Indiana on May 03, 2008:

Very unique topic and lots of great information about it. Great lens!

Winter52 LM on April 26, 2008:

Before this morning I had never heard of an altered book and you are talking to someone who can't squeeze one more book onto her shelf. I'm definitely adding you to my Happiness 101 lensroll because I think that this could be incredibly relaxing. I know that I have been on your lens for ages and I haven't even had breakfast yet. 5 stars definitely.

June Campbell from North Vancouver, BC, Canada on April 23, 2008:

I;m thrilled to see that you are using my Board Book video that put on YouTube. Thanks so much for the vote of confidence!

patinkc from Midwest on April 03, 2008:

Wow, who knew?

teamlane on April 02, 2008:

Excellent lens. Until now, I've never heard of a 'altered book!'Blessed by a Squid Angel today! :o)

GypsyPirate LM on April 02, 2008:

This was new to me, I really enjoyed reading your lens and learning. Thank you.

kristinedior on March 25, 2008:

Wonderful source of Information! If You would like to know more about Free Books and how to get them, Please Go Here

PotPieGirl on March 10, 2008:

Di - what a wonderful lens! You are so talented! I'm lucky if I can draw a straight line!Keep up the good work -Jennifer

anonymous on January 18, 2008:

Hi!thanks for the kind comments about my 'GOLD; book, it was a lot of fun to make!emma jane

Related Articles